Monthly Archives: October 2017

Milestones Testimony: Ferdinand von Hasburg-Lothringen

This is an abbreviated version of Ferdinand von Hasburg-Lothringen’s testimony featured in Milestones in Humanitarian Action, available for purchase on the Fordham Press website.

Many of us need a core set of values in order to anchor our lives and ourselves. I, for one, feel this profound need as I continue to provide humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, after two decades of professional experience in Sudan and South Sudan. My experience has allowed me to witness how human beings, when faced with enormous, apparently insurmountable challenges, continue to seek a way forward; we refer to this strength of the human spirit as “resilience.” Above all, I believe that my time in the Horn of Africa has taught me to reflect upon and fairly evaluate the needs of stakeholders, partners, and recipients. Three keywords have become central to my work and my life: community, reflection, and change. These words form the very basis of our humanity, and are a call to the future and to action.

“I will call you for one minute.” No seven words have held more meaning for me than these; I first heard them on the evening of July 28, 2016, through the crackle of a poor telephone connection. Years earlier, I had met Dr. Kevin Cahill in his office on the edge of Central Park. I had come for a thorough medical examination, and as he looked me over, he asked me about my work in South Sudan. Over the course of our conversation, he revealed himself as a consummate thinker, storyteller, and professional, steeped in humility, warmth and humor.

Now, as I crawled on hands and knees across the floor of an office building, ducking under the windows to avoid a storm of bullets outside — a barrage that, I later learned, killed over 250 people — Kevin’s seven words were my lifeline to someone who cared, someone who knew what I had experienced. Over the course of those four terrifying days, his daily “one minute” phone call reassured me that despite the distance, despite terrible situations and impossible commitments, human beings will persist in reaching out, in building connections, in recognizing the extraordinary gifts of others. This persistence is, in my view, the antidote to cynicism, impatience, and selfishness.

Kevin’s next call found me on the floor of the Comboni Missionaries in Juba, trapped by a second volley of gunfire. I was with half a dozen other international missionaries, and all of us lay facedown on the floor as more machine gun rounds, tank shells, and rocket-propelled grenades crisscrossed our compound–this time apparently in a celebratory mood. The minute was an hour, his words–whatever he said, I cannot recall now–were comfort and solidarity, filling my bruised and bewildered body with hope. Even after he ended the call, that “one minute” continue to comfort me, to reassure me that I was alive and loved, no matter what happened tomorrow. Kevin’s call, and the calls I received from his son, Brendan, and from family and friends, taught me that there is no replacement for love, support, and true friendship.

In the winter of 2002, I returned to my hometown, Geneva, as a stranger in a familiar land. I had entered into a new phase of my life: still lacking in confidence in my skills as a humanitarian, and shaken by the raw violence I saw while stationed in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, I arrived at IDHA 9. Unbeknownst to me, this would become a defining moment in my life. Not only did I walk away from the IDHA with the professional skills and tools I needed, but I also formed friendships with people who spoke the “aid language,” and who approached their work with spirit, enthusiasm, and genuine curiosity. Surrounded by so many like-minded people, I thought I had joined the IDHA in an exceptionally vintage year, or else the course had filled some niche in the humanitarian community. Friendships bloomed and strategies developed–bonds that, in many cases, remain unbreakable, connecting us across borders and oceans, coming together and forming actions, studies, shared analyses, and reunions in the most unexpected of places.

There was a deep-seated sense of respect and community, reinforced through the kind of honest, open reflection that inspires confidence, in spite of our faults and fears of inadequacy. I thought perhaps I had lucked into IDHA 9, but as I pursued the MIHA–attending courses in Barcelona, New York, and Berlin, all at times of my choosing, thanks to the flexibility of the program–I came to realize that Fordham and the IIHA had tapped into a critical need in the humanitarian world, and had met that need head-on, with innovation and first-call staff and support teams. When I arrived in Geneva for IDHA 9, I immediately felt at home.For many of us, it was the first time we had been afforded a chance to think about our personal experiences within the international framework, and to consider the experiences of others support and encouragement–an educational approach that held value for both students and tutors.

As an IDHA alumnus, I have a responsibility to develop this new philosophy and answer the hard questions. I now have the ability to look honestly at my life and my choices; to avoid the generalizations, the preferred political narratives, and the simplifications that stymy our efforts. The IDHA, above all, allows its students to think creatively in a field that adheres to tradition and often refuses change. In the end, the hours of reading and reflection created a space in my mind where I can question and challenge, and find myself anew.

Ferdinand von Hasburg-Lothringen

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Beyond the Hype: Blockchain for Humanity

Photo credit: UNHCR

 

This article was originally published on Tech’s Good.

October 27, 2017, New York City – Imagine a world where humanitarian aid can reach people affected by crises exponentially faster, where refugees can store their health, education and identification in an uncorrupted system, and where migrant workers can have safer working conditions through smart contracts. This is the world blockchain technologists and humanitarians envision — one with more sustainable and dignified responses to humanitarian crises.

Blockchain technology offers the humanitarian world a more direct option for information and currency transmission during emergencies with increased speed, traceability, and safety. This innovation has a promising future in humanitarian work, but not without possible challenges and risks.

The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA)’s Blockchain for Humanity initiative aims to promote cross-sector partnership to explore blockchain-based solutions for better policies in the humanitarian sector. Our upcoming Humanitarian Blockchain Summit will gather humanitarians, technology experts, scholars and social innovators to discuss the dynamic future of blockchain for relief efforts.

Beyond the Hype

But what is blockchain and what is behind all the hype?

Many people are familiar with blockchain-hosted crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin or blockchain softwares such as Hyperledger and Ethereum, but few know about the many potential applications of or technical details behind the technology. Collin Thompson of Intrepid Ventures does an excellent job of hashing out the system’s intricacies in a 2016 Medium series.

This video produced by The Guardian also highlights the inner workings of Bitcoin, one of the first forms of cryptocurrency on a blockchain.

The most crucial element of the technology is that every transaction on a block incorporates a previous block, forming a chain of blocks (hence the term blockchain). This feature makes the blockchain highly secure and very difficult to hack. It also allows for the instant transfer of funds or information without the need for an intermediary, like banking services or currency exchanges. This makes the transaction of currencies or information more efficient, affordable, and secure.

The Humanitarian Revolution

In humanitarian contexts, cryptocurrencies can enhance financial inclusion, ensure remittances are more accessible across borders, and facilitate immediate payment for lifesaving aid. For example, Bitnation, a humanitarian agency in Europe, allows donations to reach refugees through Bitcoin. Each donation is directly credited to a refugee’s debit card allowing them to withdraw cash without dealing with banks, that are often restrictive.

Humanitarian organizations are justifiably interested in other ways blockchain could enable more efficient humanitarian action and transparent aid delivery. If done with collaboration, ethics, and ingenuity, blockchain can revolutionize humanitarian response. Some agencies are leading the way:

ID2020 and Microsoft are creating a system allowing people to register their identity documents on a blockchain database. This project aims to to provide digital IDs to millions of undocumented or stateless people who lack access to basic government and financial services. This could have a life-saving impact for crisis-affected people, who frequently struggle to begin their lives anew without proper identification.

Aid:Tech in Lebanon provides e-vouchers on a blockchain to Syrian refugees in camps, allowing them to purchase goods in a localized refugee-economy and increasing the likelihood for self-reliance in the camp.

Handshake is designing a system for fair and legal labor contracts for international migrant workers, in an effort to minimize the prevalence of exploitation and insecurity while ensuring human rights and fair wages for work.

Governments have started to implement this technology in their own programs, storing information on the blockchain. Some examples include the management and organization of:

Additionally, blockchain has the capacity to ensure more secure delivery of lifesaving supplies through supply chain tracking, more transparent procurement of aid, more impactful humanitarian financing through impact bonds, and safer protection mechanisms through data encryption.

Tech for Good, Never Harm

Needless to say, the potential for blockchain as a tool for social change is overwhelming. However, so are the possible complications and challenges that may arise in using the technology within marginalized communities. Critical reflection and examination is essential if we are to ensure the technology serves the needs of the people before interests of companies and the questions are many, including:

  • If the data transacted on the blockchain is immutable, do people have the right or the ability to remove themselves from a blockchain system?
  • How can private and sensitive information (such as ethnicity, religion, gender, or other identification types) be left out of the hands of people who may intend to do harm?
  • In case of breach or abuse, what jurisdiction applies and who is accountable to ensuring data privacy?
  • How can crisis-affected populations have agency in interacting on the blockchain?
  • What measures or ethical standards could be put in place to ensure that vulnerable people fully understand the technology, and potential consequences of their interaction with it?

The blockchain, as a cross-border network, is not yet regulated by international or national laws. As long as data is managed on a global decentralized network, the protection and security concerns are numerous — especially in places with more autocratic governments, less corporate regulation, and populations already in peril.

Zara Rahman, fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, pointedly exemplified the protection risks of data registration currently facing Rohingya refugees. Modern-day crises, especially those fueled by ethnic violence, should compel humanitarians to employ technological interventions with the utmost caution.

By collecting evidence, piloting projects, sharing information, and analyzing the true impact of blockchain projects, we can begin to safely and effectively address these questions and outline new ethical standards to guide the use of technology in crisis. By staying true to the humanitarian principle to “do no harm” above all other objectives, we believe the humanitarian community can reach new heights with blockchain while simultaneously protecting those most vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and suffering amidst crises.

Humanitarian Blockchain Summit

The IIHA’s upcoming Humanitarian Blockchain Summit at Fordham University in New York City aims to spark a conversation about the potential for blockchain and humanitarian impact while keeping these ethical concerns at the forefront. The summit will allow humanitarian organizations to present the process, outcome and challenges of pilot blockchain projects while also providing space for dialogue among humanitarian and technology experts on future scalability and challenges.

Ultimately, we hope the Summit will be more than an exchange of ideas, but the start of an ongoing process for the development of a complete policy framework based on concrete results and with direct applicability to the humanitarian sector.

Some of the many partners coming to the table include the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology (UNOICT), the Centre for Innovation at Leiden UniversityCivic HallConsensysID2020HandshakeUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations WomenCentre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance, and World Identity Network, among others.

Blockchain technology provides an opportunity to an interconnected world to truly incite systemic change that may not only increase the impact of humanitarian response, but perhaps lessen the severity and likelihood of crises in the first place. Creating policies, collaborating across sectors and interests, and prioritizing humanitarian ethics and principles is essential for ensuring blockchain truly serves humanity.

Registration for the Humanitarian Blockchain Summit at Fordham University in New York City is now open.

Lara Lopis, IIHA Innovation Intern, Master’s student in Science and Technology Policy — University of Sussex 2018

Angela Wells, Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs Communications Officer, awells14@fordham.edu

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Call for 2018 Besso Scholarship Applications

Each year, the Fondazione Marco Besso partners with the Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) to fund three to four scholarships for Italian candidates in pursuit of the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA). Eligible scholarship applicants must be of Italian citizenship and currently working in the humanitarian field.

If you would like to be considered for a scholarship, please submit a C.V. and cover letter to the IIHA at miha@fordham.edu and specify that you are seeking a scholarship from the Fondazione Marco Besso. Please note that the Fondazione does not accept any direct scholarship requests.

All application materials must be submitted by November 27, 2017. The scholarship must be used for one of the three IDHA courses offered in 2018. If you are interested in the IDHA or our other graduate courses, please click here to view the course calendar and here to apply.

In addition to the IDHA, the IIHA offers a wide range of humanitarian educational opportunities including: Humanitarian Trainings,  a Master of Arts in Humanitarian Action, Master of Science in Humanitarian Studies, and an Undergraduate Major/Minor in Humanitarian Studies.

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by | October 24, 2017 · 2:35 pm

IIHA Hosts New York Liaison Office for the Academic Council on the United Nations System

              

October 20, 2017, New York City – The Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) at Fordham University is pleased to announce that it has agreed to host the New York Liaison Office for the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS).

ACUNS is a global professional association of educational and research institutions, individual scholars, and practitioners active in the work and study of the United Nations, multilateral relations, global governance, and international cooperation. As the liaison office, IIHA will serve as a contact point for other ACUNS members to connect with United Nations based organizations in New York, as well as with local scholarly communities.

In this function the IIHA will also organize functions – lectures, seminars, workshops, and conferences – in cooperation with local UN bodies, other international organizations, NGOs, and academic institutions.

Brendan Cahill, the Executive Director of the IIHA who will also serve as the Liaison Officer, said, “This is the logical next step in our work with ACUNS – promoting its mission and sharing our own academic and nonacademic work with so many partners throughout the world.”

The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) prepares current and future aid workers with the knowledge and skills needed to respond effectively in times of humanitarian crisis and disaster. Our courses are borne of an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines academic theory with the practical experience of seasoned humanitarian professionals.

This partnership opens new academic possibilities for students and humanitarian workers engaged in the range of humanitarian educational opportunities offered by the IIHA, including: a Master of Arts in Humanitarian Action, Master of Science in Humanitarian Studies, and an Undergraduate Major/Minor in Humanitarian Studies.

 

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Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Training in Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev, October 11, 2017 – Earlier this month the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation provided a two-day training in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law – Theory & Practice in Kiev, Ukraine in partnership with the Ukraine NGO Forum and sponsored by USAID and the Danish Refugee Council.

Ukraine NGO Forum

The course was taught by CIHC representative Florian Razesberger, an International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance alumnus, lecturer, tutor and IDHA Alumni Council member. He is also the course director of Fordham University’s Human Rights in Humanitarian Crises course.

Ukraine NGO Forum

Under Florian’s instruction, 20 Ukraine-based humanitarian and human rights workers received in-depth training on the theory and practice behind protection mechanisms for crisis-affected populations as well as basics of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Ukraine NGO Forum

“I focused the training on enhancing participants’ understanding of the legal concepts of human rights and humanitarian law and, most importantly, on the tools for monitoring and documenting human rights abuses in the field. We thoroughly discussed measures that ensure humanitarian protection work is strategic and effective,” said Florian.

Ukraine NGO Forum

 

 

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